RV Toilet, Black Tank & Sewer Tips

One of the most intimidating things when you first start living in the RV or Van Lifestyle is the RV Toilet and handling wastewater. And more specifically, sewage wastewater. We’ve heard of many people who do not “allow” pooping in the RV or camper.

Now for us, this defeats the purpose of having a toilet in your RV, camper, or van altogether. RVs are equipped with a toilet and a black tank to hold waste. Since no one wants to be in an RV that smells like an outhouse, many adopt the no-pooping rule in an effort to curb any smells from the black tank. But if you follow our tips below, you can use your RV toilet just as you would at home and NOT have to combat foul odors from the black tank.

Leave your Black Tank Valve Closed at all times unless actively dumping.

When we first started RVing we thought if we were hooked up to a full hookup RV campsite, we could leave all our wastewater valves open. WRONG!

With the black tank, liquids mix with solids. This mixing helps the solids break down into smaller, moveable pieces. I know, gross BUT you do not want the liquids draining and a mountain of solids building up.

So, what will happen if you leave the black tank valve open? Odors, black tank clogging, and overall a mess you do NOT want to have to deal with. Keep the Black Tank valve closed at ALL times unless dumping the tanks. When parked at a full hookups campsite, dump the black tank as needed. We usually wait until the black tank is about 3/4 full when at a campsite with a sewer hookup. It’s also a good idea to close up the gray tank for a little while if you know you are going to need to dump the black tank soon. This allows you to have some gray water to “flush” out the sewer hose after dumping your black tank.

Upgrade to an elongated toilet.

We recently upgraded to a Dometic 510 Fulltimer Toilet. The elongated seat feels more like a home toilet and less like a “camping” toilet. This toilet has a ceramic base vs. the plastic base that our “economy” toilet had prior. The hand sprayer makes for easy cleaning too.

We got our toilet from e-trailer and we love that e-trailer has great customer support both before and during the installation process. You can give them a call and they can help you make sure you have the RIGHT install kits, etc. for your specific rig.

RV Toilet Dometic

Lay strips of TP before doing the doody

One of the things about the size and shape of RV toilets is there is not the same amount of water in the toilet bowl as a household toilet. You can add water to the toilet bowl in RV toilets by either depressing the flush pedal halfway down OR on some toilets by lifting the flush pedal up. While this adds water to the toilet bowl, “skid marks” or “poo streaks” are still sometimes a concern when flushing solids. You can avoid this by laying some strips of TP in the toilet BEFORE going #2. You can see our video for a visual of how this works.

Use quality chemicals that do not kill bacteria

You WANT bacteria in your Black Tank. This is part of what helps to break up solids and prevent clogging. Using toilet cleaners such as bleach kill bacteria. This can be a cause for smells coming from the black tank. Using a quality product with the RIGHT kind of bacteria will actually eliminate odors created by feces and urine. We use the RV Digest It from Unique Camping + Marine. This blend of bacteria and enzymes breaks down and digests solid waste (poop and toilet paper) inside your tank, preventing clogs, backups, and misreading sensors. We’ve partnered with Unique Camping + Marine for a 15% discount too!

RV Toilet Black Tank Treatments

Use ice on travel days to clean the tank

Dumping a bag of ice down your RV Toilet before a travel day helps to clean off the tank walls and sensors. This is because as the ice melts and sloshes around, it scrapes off the sides of the tank and can help break up any solids as well. You will only want to do this on a travel day as the motion of the RV is what causes the “sloshing.” Putting ice down the toilet if you are stationary doesn’t have any benefit.

Use the black tank flush each time you dump OR break camp.

Most RVs will be equipped with a black tank flush. Flushing the black tank is basically filling it with fresh water and then draining it. Flushing out the black tank until the water in your sewer hose runs clear helps to keep the tank clean. (To be able to see what is coming out of the sewer hose you will need this clear elbow).

Camco 39736, RhinoFlex Clear RV Sewer Hose Elbow with 4-in-1 Adapter | Features a 360-Degree Fitting Rotation and Built-in Gasket for Odor-Tight Protection | Fits 4 Sizes of Dump Station Inlets
  • ODOR-TIGHT SECURE CONNECTION: Camco’s Rhino RV Sewer Hose Elbow with 4-in-1 Adapter offers a snug, leak-proof link between your camper sewer hose and the sewer dump station, effectively blocking any unwanted smells.
  • VERSATILE ADAPTER: The innovative 4-in-1 adapter is designed to accommodate four different dump station inlet sizes— 4" NPT, 3 ½" NPT, 3" NPT, and 3" slip fittings. This versatility ensures a seamless fit at various campground setups.
  • TRANSPARENT ELBOW: Easily monitor when your sewer hose has finished draining your black tank/grey tank with the clear 90-degree hose elbow. This RV sewer hose fitting’s clear construction simplifies the dumping process, eliminating guesswork.

Flushing the tank of course helps with keeping odors away. This can be done each time you dump OR break camp. For example, if you are at a campground for a longer-term stay (such as two weeks or longer) you might want to flush the black tank when you are ready to leave the campground and not worry about flushing at each dump interval. Another IMPORTANT thing is to always have a separate hose to use for flushing the black tank. Do not store this hose with your freshwater drinking hose.

Add some water to the tank after dumping

Having some water/liquid in the tank after it is emptied will help avoid poo pyramids and smells. It’s also a good idea to add one of the RV Digest drop-in pods to help keep things liquified between dumping. You can add water by using the black tank flush OR add some water by depressing the flush pedal on the RV Toilet.

Use RV or septic-safe toilet paper.

Not all toilet paper is created equally. City sewer systems and even home septic systems are NOT set up the same way as an RV Black Tank set up. This means while toilet paper (used in the proper amount) will not cause clogs at your home, it can cause problems in your RV. You will want to use a septic-safe or rapid-dissolving toilet paper when in your RV.

The safest bet is just to grab some toilet paper made specifically for RV or boat use. Alternatively, you can test how fast your favorite toilet paper breaks down. You can do this by placing two or 3 sheets in a jar of water. Put the lid on the jar and shake it up. If the toilet paper breaks down into smaller pieces, you are good to use that toilet paper in your RV or camper. If not, you will NOT want to use this toilet paper while in your RV.

Use Poo Poori Spray

This “spray before you go” spray is a great way to help keep away odors when using the bathroom. When you have 4 (or more) people using 1 bathroom in an RV a major complaint is that as soon as one person exits the bathroom another person might need to go use it. Lingering smells are NOT pleasant and just might cause some resentment towards the family member who “wrecked” the bathroom. Poo Pourri spray is made with essential oils so it’s SAFE for RV use.

Poo-Pourri Before-You-Go Toilet Spray, Original Citrus, 2 Fl Oz - Lemon, Bergamot and Lemongrass
  • Poo-Pourri Before-You-Go Toilet Spray leaves your bathroom smelling fresh and clean. Simply spray the water in the bowl with Poo-Pourri Toilet Spray before using the toilet to prevent odors before they begin!
  • Scent: Lemon, Bergamot and Lemongrass. Freshens bathroom odors before it begins so you can leave the porcelain throne smelling better than you found it!
  • How It Works: Shake well. Spritz 3-5 sprays into the toilet bowl on the water’s surface. Proceed to do your thing. Poo-Pourri traps bathroom odor under the water’s surface, so it never enters the air.

Changing Out The Toilet Paper

This could be the most important tip. If you use the last of the toilet paper, change out the roll. In most cases, there is a spring-loaded bar that goes in the center of the posts that hold the toilet paper. Compress the bar to shorten it, and replace the empty toilet paper roll with a full roll. Release the spring-loaded bar to secure the side posts. This could save your marriage.

Let us know in the comments – what other tips do YOU have for RV Toilet use or RV Black Tank use? We’d love to hear from you, let others in the RV Community know your tips by leaving a comment!

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  1. My biggest concern with the fast-dissolving paper, which is particularly recommended for sewage treatment plants and trailers, was that it would be stiff, too thin, and generally uncomfortable to use. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case with this product! It is very nice to use!